Opposition demands electricity reform, EKRE threatening mass unrest

EKRE protest against high electricity prices from January.
EKRE protest against high electricity prices from January. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Center Party and Eesti 200 are demanding a thorough reform of the Nord Pool electricity exchange, while the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) wants Estonia to leave the system or sell electricity at a fixed price not affected by the market.

EKRE: There will be mass unrest unless things change

The Conservative People's Party (EKRE) said that it has consistently stood for energy independence and supply security, while neither the previous government of the Reform Party and Center Party nor the current one with the Social Democrats and Isamaa have managed or been willing to take necessary steps to ensure cheap electricity for the Estonian people and companies. The board of EKRE categorically demands steps be taken to bring the price of electricity to a level that is comparable to what it costs to generate.

"The government may as well stop repeating its mantra of a functioning market in a situation where the difference in price between Estonia and Finland is more than a thousandfold. There is equally little sense in talking about production shortages if everyone can see there is no shortage or it is artificially created by monopolies to manipulate the price."

EKRE believes there are ways to bring down the price – Estonia needs to leave the CO2 quota trading system and the Nord Pool exchange or sell electricity at a fixed and non-market-related price inside the country.

"We cannot just keep looking on. Should the government continue to take no action, EKRE are willing to organize civil disobedience and mass protests to force the government currently leading people into poverty to resign."

Center: The market needs reform or Estonia must pull out

The Center Party, that has spent over six years in previous governments, said that the government must immediately reform the electricity exchange or leave the system.

"We have realized that the exchange simply isn't working in the current situation – both private consumers and companies are defenseless," the party's Riigikogu whip Jaanus Karilaid said. "The current systems allows speculators to profit from the crisis while keeping capable companies with reserves out. The workings of the exchange must also be rendered much more transparent."

Karilaid said that overlooking companies in the electricity market reform is a major strategic mistake by the government. "Growing production expenses create a chain reaction that reflects on supermarket shelves, weakens competitive ability and hikes accommodation prices. We saw the price peak yesterday (Wednesday - ed.) at €4,000 per megawatt-hour. This had a paralyzing effect on many small businesses that were forced to temporarily close. The Noorus SPA in Narva-Jõesuu has already announced layoffs and possibly having to close doors. And that is only the beginning. Unless Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) takes decisive action now, companies are looking at a wave of bankruptcies, with thousands out of work."

Karilaid added that the 2019 decision of Jüri Ratas' government to keep Estonia's oil shale power plants in reserve to ensure supply security was the right call. "We would be seeing much higher prices still had we shut down our oil shale power blocks," Karilaid remarked.

Eesti 200: The government needs to present a plan for bringing prices under control

Non-parliamentary Eesti 200 demands the government present a plan for solving the energy crisis, complete with proposals which rapid decisions need to be taken to alleviate the production capacity shortage.

Party leader Kristina Kallas said that the supervisory board of state energy company Eesti Energia warned the government of soaring prices due to lack of reserve capacity back in 2018.

"This is the last minute for the government to present a plan for bringing energy prices under control. We need to double the speed at which existing production capacity developments are processed. What new capacity will we launch in 2024, in 2025 and 2026? Incentives for those who succeed in curbing consumption need to be introduced. It is also crucial to at least double the volume and pace of grid investments to give capacity already standing by access to the market," Kallas listed.

Eesti 200 also want to immediately reform the Nord Pool exchange – render it transparent and replace the CO2 quota system, now victim to Gazprom speculation, with a polluter pays system of environmental fees.

"The market price is an indicator of things we haven't done. The market is not to blame for insufficient development of production capacity," Kristina Kallas explained, adding that Estonia must tackle not just the coming winter but look to the future to avoid even worse ones.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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